Americans are among the most charitable in the world, donating $389.05 billion in 2016, a 4 percent increase from the previous year. But it’s not only their money that people are giving—it’s their time, too. Approximately 63 million Americans—a quarter of the adult population—volunteer their time, talents and energy every year, according to the National Philanthropic Trust.
Why do we give our time and money away? Simply put, it feels good to help others. Like individuals, businesses, too, can benefit from philanthropic efforts—and many have thriving charitable programs. Corporate giving amounts increased by three percent from 2015, to $18.55 billion in 2016.
Aside from the feel-good factor and tax benefits, businesses reap several other valuable rewards for charitable acts. These include boosting brand and reputation, contributing to the livability of a community, increasing employee morale, and building networking opportunities.
More businesses, large and small, are recognizing the inherent benefits of giving back. Let’s take a closer look into why corporate philanthropy is becoming a common business practice today.
Get inspired to give
When developing a strategy for giving, it’s worth taking a look at what others are doing to inspire your own efforts. TriplePundit offers a few examples of how larger companies are leading the way in corporate philanthropy:
- Since launching in 2001, Apple’s employee match program has raised over $50 million for non-profits by matching $25 million worth of employee donations.
- In one year alone, Google’s volunteer program engaged more than 6,500 employees who spent nearly 80,000 hours of service to nonprofit organizations.
- Through Microsoft’s volunteer match program, nonprofit organizations receive $25 per hour when an employee volunteers.
But you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to make a positive impact in your community and on your business. Giving on a local level offers many of the same benefits.
Why give? The answers are in the stats
To learn more about how philanthropy influences consumers’ buying preferences and business success, Vantiv surveyed a sample group of consumers and business owners. Here’s what we discovered.
- Small business philanthropy is important to consumers. 80% of consumer respondents agree that small businesses should support community causes with both donations and volunteer time.
- Consumers want businesses to support specific causes. The top community issues and charitable causes consumer respondents would like small business to support are public philanthropy and community development (69%); education (62%); environment (58%); and human services including sports and recreation, public safety, disaster preparedness and relief (58%).
- Consumers frequent businesses that support the causes they care about. The majority of consumer respondents (94%) are inclined to shop more often and recommend a small business to others if that business supports an issue they care about.
- Brand loyalty is linked to philanthropic efforts. The majority of consumer respondents (95%) are inclined to switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality.
- Businesses understand the importance of giving back. The majority of merchant respondents (93%) believe giving back to the community helps their business.
3 ways to power your own giving program
Now that you have a better idea of the benefits of philanthropy for business, let’s explore some ways to power your own giving program.
- Get customer input. Instead of just donating a percentage of profits to a local charity and telling your customers about it, get their input first. Giving your customers the opportunity to help choose the charitable causes you support can build trust and loyalty. An article about corporate giving strategies in the Wall Street Journal cited an example illustrating the effectiveness of this strategy: when customers of a major retailer were asked for their input on the charities the business should donate to, they spent more money at the business, and were more likely to sign up for the company’s loyalty program.
- Give employees a say in the company match. Offering your employees the option to choose their charity for the company match is an effective way to increase participation in your program, while also building employee morale and respect for company leadership. This is an approach Vantiv takes through its VantivGives program, in which the company matches up to $500 in donations per employee annually, to a registered non-profit of the employee’s choice.
- Encourage employees to volunteer. Having a smaller budget for monetary donations doesn’t need to be a roadblock to giving. You can still support the communities and causes you care about by offering volunteer time. Take a cue from Vantiv, which gives employees eight hours of paid time off a year for volunteering, and lets employees pick the charity to spend their time. Volunteer opportunities can double as team-building activities, which have a positive affect on employee effectiveness and performance. Putting a group of employees together for a Habitat for Humanity build or trash pick-up day, for example, allows you to contribute to community causes while helping your employees get to know each other and work better together.